How we raised over $400 for charity in an hour

Mar 29, 2018

As part of my initiative to get to know my new coworkers when I started at Serverless last December, I set up 1:1 meetings with each person. One of those people was Felix, Product Designer and PM at Serverless.

It was around the holidays, and Felix mentioned he’d like to find a way for Serverless to give back. I was really excited to do something community-oriented myself, and the two of us got to brainstorming.

What we ended up with was a simple fundraiser that took us only an hour or two to run, and raised enough cash to provide almost 100 meals to Bay Area soup kitchens. If you’re looking for a simple, high-impact way to get your organization involved in giving, then read on!

How the bar cart idea was hatched

For context, Serverless works out of the HeavyBit offices—a co-working space where lots of developer tool startups have desk space. We wondered if there was a way to involve not just Serverless, but the entire building.

It turns out both of our significant others do what I’ll call a ‘donation cart’ at work: one team picks a charity and a drink (both with and without alcohol), puts the mixings on a cart with a tip jar, and goes around the office giving out drinks in exchange for donations.

It sounded simple, low effort, and high impact. I loved the idea.

Felix and I met the first week of December, and since we knew people would be out around the holidays, we decided to move fast. Within a week, the donation cart was ready to go!

Cost basis and fundraising goals

Growing up, I have a lot of fond memories of drinking hot chocolate with candy canes; it was a special treat that I only had in winter. As an adult, I still get filled with nostalgia when I have peppermint and hot chocolate.

That ended up inspiring our choice of beverage: hot chocolate with candy canes and whipped cream (with some optional Bailey’s on the side).

One trip to the store later, and Felix and I had:

  • enough hot chocolate, candy canes, whipped cream, and Bailey’s for 40 cups. (I opted for a slightly higher-priced hot chocolate mix, since good cocoa can make or break a cup.)
  • two Santa hats

In total, Serverless invested $43 on supplies.

The charity we settled on was GLIDE’s meal program. GLIDE serves 2,000 meals a day, and $5 sponsors an entire meal. Being someone who loves metrics, I thought having a baseline number like $5 would encourage people to donate more than just $1 or $2.

Solidifying the details

The day before the event, we sent out a Slack message to the entire office building to let everyone know the details of the event, and make sure the date/time wouldn’t be disrupting any important meetings:

We felt confident about setting a goal of $100, which is about $3.00 per person in a 30-40 person office.

Dana Oshiro, one of the founders of HeavyBit, challenged people by saying she would match the first $100! This was great motivation for some people, and really helped to create some initial momentum.

The day of the event, Felix and I both added our own flare to the cart (which, conveniently, we were able to borrow directly from HeavyBit)—I brought winter fabric to use as a tablecloth, and Felix played holiday music from his phone. We pulled out mugs, spoons, and filled hot water containers.

In no time, we were ready to raise some money for GLIDE and spread cheer around the office.

How it went

At 4:00pm, we put on our santa hats and made our way around the 3rd floor.

The music and hats were a great way to catch everyone’s attention! We would introduce ourselves to each person and exchange names, occasionally asking about each other’s company or roles. People would ask how much to donate, we would say, “As much as you’d like, but $5 sponsors an entire meal.”

Most of the time, people gave $10-20 and thanked us for being so thoughtful. By the time we wrapped up with one team, another was glancing over to see if we’d come their way.

Previously, I thought $100 would be a stretch but when we left the 3rd floor we were already starting to blow past it!

The second floor was the same. People were eager to donate and excited about our drink options.

I was caught off guard by how into it people were. Not only were people really generous, but people who missed the cart due to meetings found us later to donate—some even sent money via Venmo later that evening just to chip in.

Although we had a tip jar for cash, it was really helpful to have a Venmo account ready to go. We used my personal account and I donated the sum online the next day.

End result

In the end, we raised $420 and had an 80% participation rate. All in less than an hour. This equated to 84 full meals.

I guess instead of a goal of $100, we should have had a goal of 100 meals. We were pretty close!


I feel there are two types of people who work in co-working spaces: those who know everyone, and those who only know their team. Being an introvert, I am the latter.

Going up to strangers and saying “Hi, I’m Molly” takes a lot of energy for me. But pushing around the donation cart with a coworker gave me an easy way to meet almost the entire office.

Because of this realization, we’ve decided to incorporate volunteering into Serverless’ new employee orientation. Each orientation group will pick a charity and event to give back to the community and start off their Serverless experience with a bang.

All in all, this was a super easy way to give back, and I’d highly encourage anyone who’s looking for a simple afternoon community project with great purpose to consider it.

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